Healthy ingredients: Delicious dates

Dates are the sweet, rich fruit of the date palm, grown in desert climates. WIth their chewy, sticky texture they are available either fresh or driedd and packaged and can be used as a natural sweetener. Both the dried and the fresh fruit are energy-dense and dates are loaded with carbs such as sucrose, glucose and fructose - so they're a great choice if you need a quick energy boost!

Rich in a range of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B6 and K and potassium, magnesium and calcium, around 4 medium dates contain 277kcals, 1.81g protein and 75g carbs (1). Dates are also a great source of soluble and insoluble fibre, which can help decrease LDL cholesterol and balance your blood sugar levels as well as aiding digestion - in fact, dates are often recommended as a laxative food if you're suffering from constipation. With manganese, selenium, magnesium and copper, dates are a superfood for fighting osteoporosis and increasing bone strength. Their high iron levels means they're a great choice if you suffer from anaemia.

Healthy heart

Soaking dates overnight and consuming them is said to keep your heart healthy. They're rich in potassium, which can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. But bear in mind that dates are fairly high in calories, and they should be eaten in moderation. If you're looking to gain weight, dates are your new best friend!

Recipe inspiration

Many vegan or clean-eating recipes call for the use of dates (such as our raw banana bread breakfast bars) and they're a versatile fruit that can be used to bake and cook a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. Medjool dates are plump and juicy and can be found in larger supermarkets. If you're buying dried dates, they may need to be soaked in warm water before adding to your recipe. We've got some recipe inspiration, in case you're wondering how to use these sweet, sticky fruits!

Sticky Toffee Pudding

For an occasional treat to satisfy your sweet tooth, a classic sticky toffee pudding with dates is hard to beat. There's nothing healthy or low calorie about this recipe, although by making it yourself from scratch, you avoid the additives often found in supermarket varieties!

5 Ingredient No Bake Vegan Date Squares

The best part about this vegan recipe from Oh She Glows is that there's no baking required! Just mix together the super-healthy ingredients - coconut oil, oats, raw almonds, dates and salt and create these moreish squares that are sweet enough to enjoy for dessert but healthy enough to have for breakfast too!

Nutty Oat Energy Bars

Dates are a great natural source of energy and these bars contain none of the processed ingredients you'll find in many cereal bars. With oats, puffed rice, almonds, seeds, chocolate chips, raisins, honey, nut butter and dates, these healthy energy bars can be enjoyed for breakfast-on-the-go, as a post-workout snack or anytime you need an energy boost!

Creamy Chocolate Hemp Smoothie

This recipe makes two servings, so it's perfect for after a run with your fitness buddy or a workout at the gym. Hulled hemp seeds give you a great protein, fibre and omega-3 boost which can help to lift brain fog and make it easier to concentrate! Soaking the dates in water for around an hour before making the smoothie helps to soften them up, and if you want a creamier texture, a scoop of non-dairy ice cream is the way to go! Chocolately, delicious and naturally sweetened with dates, this could be our new favourite chocolate smoothie recipe!

Chicken and Lemon Tagine with Herby Tabbouleh

Dates aren't just for sweet dishes - they add loads of flavour to Middle-Eastern dishes too! This preserved lemon and chicken tagine is packed with flavour and lean protein, whilst the herby tabbouleh is a nutty carb-loadded side dish - any leftovers can be eaten for a healthy lunch the next day to avoid food waste!

Date and Orange Salad with Fennel and Feta

We love the aniseed flavour of fennel combined with salty feta, juicy oranges and sweet dates - this Middle Eastern salad is perfect! The rich, creamy dressing is made a bit healthier with the addition of olive oil (a source of good fat) and this makes a great salad to serve when friends are coming over for dinner, or as a light yet filling and energy-packed lunch!

Cumin-Roast Aubergines with Dates and Chickpeas

The Expertrain team are all a bit obsessed with chickpeas; they're super-healthy and packed with protein. So when we saw this recipe combining them with aubergine and dates, we got excited! This is delicious served as a veggie main course with cous cous or quinoa, or as a side dish with mackerel (it's loaded with omega-3 fatty acids) or even some roast lamb on a Sunday.

Dates can be expensive if you add them in huge quantities to anything and everything, but used to subtly sweeten and flavour a wide range of dishes, we think they're pretty affordable and amazing to boot! What are your favourite date recipes - share them with us?

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Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 30th Apr 2015 at 13:47

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